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Sermon preached on Luke 24:13-53 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 01/15/2023 in Petaluma, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
We come to the conclusion of our sermon series through Luke. Luke has taken us through the story of Jesus’ time on earth, from heaven and back again. We’ve read of Jesus’ virgin birth, then his life and death, and now his resurrection and ascension. Luke has so wonderfully recounted to us the story of the Christ, and now as his gospel draws to a close, he records Jesus twice summarizing what Luke has given to us. In verse 26, Jesus summarizes his story in terms of first suffering then glory. These two disciples on the road to Emmaus had described all Jesus’ recent sufferings in verse 20, that Jesus had been condemned by the religious leaders and delivered over to crucifixion and death. But these disciples then recounted how they had received reports of Jesus’ resurrection. While these disciples at that moment were both sad and confused, Jesus says they should not have been. They should have known that this is what had been the plan for the Messiah all along. Jesus himself had told them this on several occasions in various ways. Jesus tells them this yet again in verses 46-47, saying that the Christ had to suffer and rise on the third day and then repentance proclaimed in his name throughout all the nations. And Jesus tells them here twice that this is what the Scriptures themselves had already foretold.
What we’ll see today is that the story that we’ve found in Luke, the story that Jesus twice here summarizes in verses 26 and 46-47, is really the story of the whole Bible. The Bible is a big book, actually a collection of different books. It contains many different things in it. It has a lot of various doctrines. It contains God’s many laws on how he commands us to live. It has many wonderful proverbs of wisdom. It contains a treasure of many beautiful songs and poems. And it contains all sorts of stories, including various stories of history. But ultimately, through it all, the Bible tells us about one overarching story. It’s the story of redemption. It’s the story of how God redeemed a sinful and fallen humanity, and how he accomplished it through Christ Jesus. Today’s passage teaches us this important truth. It is such a foundational thing for us to recognize that the Bible is ultimately about this one main story. Because this is so foundational, there have been some academic label given to describe the discipline of studying the whole of the Bible to see how this story is developed from start to finish. That label is “Biblical Theology”. The late theologian Geerhardus Vos taught that subject at Old Princeton Seminary and he once said this about the name Biblical Theology:
The term ‘Biblical Theology’ is really unsatisfactory because of its liability to misconstruction. All truly Christian Theology must be Biblical Theology – for apart from General Revelation the Scriptures constitute the sole material with which the science of Theology can deal. A more suitable name would be ‘History of Special Revelation’, which precisely describes the subject matter of the discipline. Names, however, become fixed by long usage, and the term ‘Biblical Theology’, in spite of its ambiguity, can hardly be abandoned now.
Vos goes on to say this about Biblical Theology as a theological discipline:
Biblical Theology occupies a position between Exegesis and Systematic Theology in the encyclopedia of theological disciplines. It differs from Systematic Theology, not in being more biblical, or adhering more closely to the truths of the Scriptures, but in that its principle of organizing the biblical material is historical rather that logical… seeking to exhibit the organic growth or development of the truths of Special Revelation from the primitive pre-redemptive Special Revelation given in Eden to the close of the New Testament canon.
Thank you for indulging me on these extended quotes from Vos’s preface to his book Biblical Theology. This is all by way of introduction to what we find described here in Luke 24. It is a summary of not just all of Luke, but all of the Bible. So then, turning to the text, we’ll see that this Biblical Theology is a biblical discipline and thus worthy of our continued pursuit. We’ll consider this in three points from our passage. First, we’ll see the Christ-centered nature of Scripture. Second, we’ll see how that story of Christ is summarized with timeline of suffering, then glory, then proclamation. Third, we’ll see how this is something we should be seeking to see and understand, even while we will need God’s help so we can see and understand it.
So then, we see the Christ-centered nature of Scripture mentioned repeatedly in Luke 24. Let’s first observe how Jesus references all the Old Testament Scriptures here which was at their day the whole Bible. In verse 25 he mentions the prophets. In the next verse, he expands this reference by referring to Moses and the Prophets. Indeed, he further expands it there to say “all the Scriptures.” Then jump down to verse 44. There he mentions three main parts of the Old Testament scriptures, the Law of Moses, i.e. the Torah, and then the Prophets, and then the Psalms. In the next verse, he refers to these three parts collectively by a single reference to the Scriptures. Indeed, this is how the Jews still classify and categorize the Scriptures, into these three main parts. You have the Torah, (i.e. Law of Moses which is the first five books of the Bible), then you have Nevi’im (i.e. the Prophets), and then you have the Ketuvim (i.e. the “Writings” which the Psalms is the largest part.) So, what Jesus is referring to here is the whole Bible.
And what does he say about that whole Bible? He says that it is all about him. In verse 26 when he refers to all that prophets have spoken about, he is referring to how the Christ had to suffer then enter into glory. In verse 27, it says that he teaches them through the whole Bible “all the things concerning himself.” Then down in verse 44, he refers to all the things “written about me” in all the Scriptures. Do you see what he is saying? All these references are to say the content of the Bible is about himself, Jesus, the Christ. All the Bible is about God’s plan to redeem the elect through Jesus Christ. As the Messiah, Jesus would suffer, then enter into glory. That is taught throughout the Bible, according to Jesus here.
Now, let us add a little extra nuance here when we add our context and perspective. So far, we’ve really only been talking about what we call the Old Testament. The Old Testament Scriptures were ultimately telling the story of Jesus. But you notice in verses 47 and 48 the story as Jesus described would actually flow then into applying to the New Testament too. Because In verse 47 he extends his description that Scriptures speak of his suffering then glory to add that they also speak of how he will be proclaimed then throughout the world, a way of repentance and salvation in his name. Yes, even that is something we can find foretold in the Old Testament to a degree. But it is especially the content of the New Testament. Right there in verse 48, Jesus tells his disciples there that they are his witnesses to these Old Testament prophecies coming to pass. He then tells them how the Holy Spirit would some come upon them to equip them in power for their work of bearing witness to Christ to the whole world, starting in Jerusalem. In fact, Luke’s gospel is his volume 1, but the book of Acts is his volume 2 about this. That is what the New Testament then is. It is an inspirated set of witnesses and testimony that Jesus is the Christ. So then, the Old and New Testaments are all about Jesus. The Scriptures are Christ-centered from cover to cover.
To clarify, this is not to say that every jot and title of any and every Bible verse is about Jesus explicitly. Some very much are directly about Jesus. Others develop larger biblical themes and teachings that contribute to what we know about Jesus and our need of him. So, while not every single verse will be a direct statement about Jesus, even with those we can and should find a way to bring us to Christ. We can think of generalizations for this, like for example how any passage on law reveals our breaking of that law and why we need Jesus as our atonement for sin. But we can and should look to be more than just generic and general and look to find as much specific ways we can find Christ in the passage without doing violence to the text by putting him in places that he is not ultimately to be found.
Let us turn now to our second point to see how that story of Christ is summarized with the timeline of suffering, then glory, then proclamation. We’ve already noted how Jesus tells us that twice in this chapter and the disciples on the road to Emmaus recount that this is what has already happened. But what I want to do for now to is to begin to demonstrate this from the Old Testament. Jesus said we can do that. Let’s do a quick summary of this.
I begin then by noting that this caused some interesting discussion among the Rabbis of old. What I mean is that the Old Testament had prophecies about a suffering Messiah and prophecies about a glorious Messiah. Some Jewish rabbis were perplexed over how both could be true, and some even went as far as to suggest maybe there would be two different Messiahs. Of course, with more light comes more clarity, and what we have inspired here in Luke 24 teaches us what Jesus says could have been found already in the Bible, that there is one Messiah who would come, but first he would come to suffer and then only after that enter into his subsequent messianic glories.
So then, consider some of the prophecies that speak of the Messiah’s suffering. Think of the prophets. One of the most explicit ones comes in Isaiah 53. Referred to as one of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah, there it has various references to how the Christ was to be offered as a substitutionary atonement for sin of God’s people. Or you have a prophecy like Zechariah 13:7 where it says “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” a prophecy applied to Jesus’ death on the cross in the New Testament. Or go to the Psalms, like Psalm 22 which various gospels paint as being fulfilled by Jesus during his crucifixion, which begins with that cry of “May God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Or go to the Psalm 118 which speaks of a stone being rejected by the builders, understood to apply to Jesus and how the religious leaders rejected him. Or go to the Torah, and right from Genesis 3:15 there is the prophesy of how the savior would be struck by the seed of the devil on his heel. Or think how Exodus has the Passover Lamb with its shed blood a type of Christ to come. I’m only scratching the surface here on Old Testament passages that describe how the Christ would have to suffer.
So then, think of the various prophecies that speak of the Messiah’s subsequent glories. Start first with the passages that we just referenced about his suffering, because they also go on to say something of his glory too. That Isaiah 53 passage, for example, ends by saying that God will glorify the Messiah because he poured out his soul to death, which shows that his suffering and death is not the end of the matter. Or that Zechariah 13 prophecy about striking the shepherd is in the context of a chapter that begins by saying God will cleanse his people from sin, showing that the suffering of Jesus will bring such a glorious washing away of sins. That Psalm 118 passage goes on to say that the stone that the builders have rejected has become the chief cornerstone, speaking of his rejection then subsequent exaltation. Or that Genesis 3:15 passage not only speaks of how the seed of the devil will strike the heel of the savior, but how the savior would simultaneously give a death blow to the head of the seed of the devil. Or like how the Passover Lamb in Exodus becomes the basis for the glorious redemption of God’s people from Egypt, which we think of the glory that comes out of Christ’s death, that he has accomplished our redemption from sin and death.
Of course, there are various others that especially focus on the glory of the coming Messiah. Like Psalm 110, an explicitly Messianic psalm, that speaks of the Messiah being seated at the right hand of God, and executing divine judgment on the nations, and serving even as a royal priest in the order of Melchizedek. Or take Psalm 2, which is also an explicitly Messianic psalm, that speaks of God setting his Christ on Zion and giving him the nations as his inheritance, with a call for all nations to submit to him. Or passages like 2 Samuel 7:13 or Daniel 7:13 or Isaiah 9:7 or Genesis 49:10 that speak of how the Messiah’s kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom over all the earth.
So then, there are so many passages in the Old Testament that speak of a Christ who suffers, and a Christ who is glorious, and even various ones that connect both together to teach what Jesus says here, that the Christ must first suffer then enter into his subsequent glories. So then, afterwards he sent his apostles and other disciples out as eyewitnesses to these things. They proclaim a gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in his name. This is what we find in the New Testament. The four gospel accounts record his suffering then subsequent glory. The book of Acts records the history of the initial eye witnesses evangelizing the world starting from Jerusalem. The various epistles is that evangelism and discipleship in action. And Revelation foretells how the glory of the Messiah will come to a climax between now and when Jesus returns.
All the Scriptures are about Christ and his story of redemption. This is Biblical Theology, properly speaking. In our last point for today, I will briefly make the point that this Biblical Theology is something we need to be students of, even while we will acknowledge that we will need God’s help so we can see and understand it.
You see, when Jesus rose from the dead and the reports started coming in about it, we see his disciples not properly expecting this. We see them described as confused and/or sad but not eagerly expecting this. So, Jesus in verse 25 rebuked those two disciples on the road to Emmaus because of that. He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” You see, Jesus is saying that if they had properly read and understood the Bible, and believed it, then they should have known all this was to happen. Or similarly, in verse 44, Jesus again admonishes his wider group of disciples when he says that, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,” and he points them there back to the what he taught them from the Scriptures. In other words, Jesus said that everything that ended up happening with him in terms of his suffering then glory was what he himself had foretold them and even had pointed to them in the Scriptures. My point is that Jesus told his disciples that had they been better students of God’s word, they would have seen Christ and his story of redemption in. He says they were in the wrong to not have been seeing this and living accordingly. If this was true for them, it is all the more the case with us, now that we have the complete canon of Scripture with the Old and New Testaments.
Yet, we do note here that these disciples needed the work of God in their hearts to open their eyes to these truths. This can be seen by the way Luke uses the word “opened” three times in this passage. First it is used in verse 31 to describe how God opened their eyes to finally recognize Jesus, before that they saw Jesus but didn’t really see that it was him. That’s like how we can read out Bibles but not really understand them properly. And then in verse 32 that word of “opened” appears again, this time to say how their hearts were excited as Jesus “opened” the Scriptures to them. For them to come to truly understand the Scriptures, they would need to be taught them and explained them, and here Jesus was doing that. Then in verse 45, there is a final use of the word “opened” when it says that Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” There, it describes how Jesus works within them, that they would truly understand what the Scriptures were saying about himself. This likely corresponds with the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in John 20:22 where he breathes on them the Holy Spirit, for surely it is the Spirit of Christ that works in peoples’ hearts to open their spiritual eyes.
That is how we too can begin to see and truly understand the Scriptures. This was true for these disciples and it is still true for us today. We are to study the Scriptures and to seek Christ within them. And as we do it, we should be reliant on Christ to open our spiritual eyes by his Spirit.
So then, as we conclude our Luke series, I leave us with this exhortation to continue to seek the Scriptures and see this Biblical Theology. One way you can apply that exhortation is for you to take the challenge to continue on with Luke by doing some personal study through his second volume of Acts. There you will see this story continue. Another way you will be able to apply this exhortation is in our new sermon series. We’ll be going back to the beginning, to the Torah, by taking on a sermon series through Genesis. And we will especially look to see how it speaks of Christ and his work of redemption. So then, such Biblical Theology allows us to find gospel even in the book of Genesis. I look forward to starting that new series with you soon.
Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
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